I have lived with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in secret for 16 years, only my close family and a handful of friends are aware that I live with the condition.
Since being diagnosed 16 years ago, and without the use of medication or therapy, I have managed to forge a successful media career for myself as an advertising creative working for some of the UK’s most recognized media brands.
You should know that, if you met me or knew me already you wouldn’t know that I have BPD. I hide it very well. This is partly due to my warm, charming and bubbly personality, which is completely at odds with the condition it self and the fact that I have achieved professional success in my career.
If a friend were to describe me, they would never associate the worded description that’s affiliated with a mental health condition like BPD. I have become a Machiavellian master when it comes disguising my illness.
I was originally diagnosed with BPD when I was 20. Although they didn’t officially call it by that name back then as the professionals were still debating the label the condition should be slapped with.
I only got diagnosed because the symptoms of my condition had ‘come of age’. Like most people that live with the condition the signs were there from early on, but they were not picked up by myself or my family, instead those ‘tricky’ personality traits were put down to teenage turmoil, and a what was seen as often difficult to manage personality.
It was a badly judged relationship at the age of 19 that became the breeding ground for my condition to really come into its own. Domestic violence and emotional abuse in the relationship made me turn to a cycle of self-harming, without which ironically perhaps I would never have been diagnosed.
When I got my diagnosis, it was hard to take it seriously as there was no medication for the condition and no bespoke therapy. I was told that it was a condition that I would have to manage for the rest of my life. It could have been due to this or the nature of BPD, that I didn’t accept my diagnosis - It was a bad phase, bad stuff happened and thats what I chose to file it away as.
'There are only a few that hear the ‘help–me’ behind the malicious worded hateful screams, whose sole intention is to push away loved ones'
After a short stint in standard therapy I decided to move on with my life. However it wasn’t just ‘ a bad phase’, in reality it had been part of my entire life, shadowing my every step and infiltrating my every thought, it was part of me - it was me.
Once I had finished my therapy, which was never designed to tackle the underling issues of my condition, I stitched the remains of my life back together with the help of my family and decided to throw my self into a career, effectively pressing delete on the bad period of my life.
BPD is a very hard mental illness to explain and breakdown to those that do not have it and aren’t aware of it.
Google will tell you that it is forming quick intense relationships and extreme manipulation in the form of self –harm, suicidal threats and violence; beware-beware.
Whilst emotional manipulation is undoubtedly a characteristic it’s not a one size fits all. Especially if you fall within the high functioning spectrum, as I do. Sure there have been times during episodic periods that I have used manipulative tactics, when I have been in the pit of despair but these are not always common practice, nor is the threat of violence, no more so than the average person anyway.
What is more the norm is the self loathing, fear of abandonment, not truly knowing who you are, feeling childlike and an internal voice telling you that you’re not good enough. Combined with the constant thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Whilst loved ones desperately whisper words that remind you, of who you are when BPD has hold of you.
'I call BPD the ‘Fast and the Furious’ of the mental health family tree. For BPD sufferers it’s an exhausting internal daily battle enduring all four seasons in an extremely fast period of time'
If you witnessed me having a BPD episode, you’d put it down to me being a horrible and hurtful person, a vile troublemaker someone that surely is incapable of loving and being loved.
There are only a few that hear the ‘help–me’ behind the malicious worded hateful screams, whose sole intention is to push away loved ones.
Here in lies the paradox; underneath all the symptom manifestations of the BPD sufferer, in between I - hate - you’s and the, I’m - done - with you’s. They are petrified of being alone and feel that they’re incapable of being loved and if love does come it will abandon them.
This is the strong under current to the condition, pulling you down, choking and drowning you in a sea of your own emotions.
I call BPD the ‘Fast and the Furious’ of the mental health family tree. For BPD sufferers it’s an exhausting internal daily battle enduring all four seasons in an extremely fast period of time.
And for me personally the added exhaustion of hiding my internal anguish to mask my illness from the world. It’s a lot of pressure and one that after 16 years finally gave way when the conditions were just right.
After a highly successful media career, I stumbled on to hard times, due to a string of bad decisions, of which in hindsight were probably part of my BPD characteristics of being a risk taker.
Looking back my career saved me, it was my way of playing normal, feeling included and valued and my own way of connecting with the world around me.
Of course the pressure of most of my media positions were potential triggers to my condition, high pressure environments and professional criticisms, but at the same time the balance of the creativity, personal satisfaction and feelings of belonging outweighed all of that risk.
So when I left a secure position to work for a friends company, I unknowingly jeopardized a major string that was holding my life together. My career.
As old sayings go never mix business and pleasure is one that should probably be heeded. The professional move I had risked didn’t work out. I was made redundant which instantly left me in financial ruin. This quickly became the perfect environment to incubate my BPD illness once more.
My experience would have been difficult for most to deal with, let alone having a BPD brain that would digest and skew it in a self-sabotaging way.
With my old BPD thought process back and stronger than ever, thanks to my joblessness. I struggled to find work, I became deeply depressed.The and the pressure of the job market, coupled with some bad job interviews finally became the breaking point.
Soon after I found myself suicidal and sat in front of my doctor telling her that I couldn’t go on. I was done and that I was only still here because of the guilt of what it would do to my family and that the pressure of that was suffocating me.
I was quickly seen by the mental health professionals and was now on their radar. It seemed things had changed a lot in the 16 years since my original diagnosis. BPD had become universally recognized and there was a team designed specifically to deal with the illness, they even had a bespoke therapy solution to deal with it.
'I am hoping that with time and less stigma, I will be in a place where I am not afraid and can speak openly about the struggles that I face daily'
Since I met with the team a year ago, I have been on a ten- week introduction to MBHT-I therapy. I have met other people that have BPD. It’s been beneficial meeting them and listening to their journeys and struggles with the condition and to know that I‘m not alone.
I have also successfully been accepted on a two-year therapy course, to tackle my BPD, which I’m waiting eagerly to join any day now.
I’ve finally accepted my condition and that it is OK not to be OK.I am very slowly admitting to more people that I have the illness. Whilst, I still follow it up with a ‘please don’t tell anyone’ and ‘please don’t think any differently of me.’
I am hoping that with time and less stigma, I will be in a place where I am not afraid and can speak openly about the struggles that I face daily.
The therapy course that I am waiting for has a really high success rate. It is an intensive two- year course with sessions twice weekly.
One of the biggest things for me in all of this is the decision, in part because of the support from my family, to take the time off to do the therapy and to ultimately take the time out of my career.
My psychologist advised not to look for full time work during the therapy period, as it can be counter productive to the success of the therapy.
I am fortunate enough that my family, have convinced me that if I had a physical illness for example; heart condition or cancer, I wouldn’t be debating not doing the treatment. It is life and death treatment and should be considered as such.
Whilst I am hopeful and excited about my treatment, I am daunted to, this is just the beginning, it’s going to be traumatic and a lot hard of work. I also have the added concern that I will not be the same person, which I’m still not sure, if it’s a real concern or my BPD trying to convince me otherwise, so I won’t abandon it. The irony of that is not lost on me.
It’s been a very turbulent journey getting to the point I am at now. BPD has stolen some of my best years, it’s made me live a lie, forced me to disconnect by hiding away with my suicidal thoughts and its left a trail of personal devastation and ruined friendships in its wake.
It’s made romantic and close relationships feel like they are impossibly unattainable with its brainwashing whispers of ‘who could love a monster like you’.
I’m now at the stage where I realize that BPD isn’t me; it’s just a monster that feeds off my emotional pain and uncertainty.
It’s been my longest relationship to date, but I’m breaking up with you BPD and for the record, it’s you not me.
published anonymously, with thanks